Category Archives: writing

Mavens of the Unknown: in which nin thinks about blogging


Mom, I made us a blog.

(Gulp. Now we’ve done it. Made the leap.)

What’s it called?

Maven Haven.

(Oh, no. That was my idea, but now I’m not so sure. It’s catchy, I think, but does it sound a little arrogant? But it’s a fait accompli, the deed is done, the die is cast, here’s hoping for the best).

First, some stream of consciousness thoughts on blogs and blogging.

I have mixed feelings about the “I, I, I”-ness of blogs. I sometimes get irritated with people who (I feel) overshare on Facebook and aren’t blogs like Facebook entries on steroids?  Some of the words of Emily Dickinson’s poem pop into my mind, with a twist:

I’m nobody, who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

How dreadful to be somebody,

How public, like a BLOG.

Blogging is putting it right out there; you hit publish and it’s there for anyone to read. Maybe there’s a way to edit or retract a post, but, digital immigrant that I am, I don’t know how. And they say no one is reading it anyway. So why bother to do it at all in the first place?  For me, blogging is a practice, a discipline; it is putting on the writing miles with a purpose; like weight watchers with words, it holds you accountable. Blogs are a bridge between freewriting and a personal essay, a way to discover what you think and to practice making your thoughts clear. Plus, the fact that no one will read it is liberating and the thought that someone might is exciting.

This brings us back to maven-ry. Webster’s dictionary defines a maven as one who is experienced or knowledgeable (also a freak). Well, the former has a presumptuous tinge and the latter a little Asperger-y. But the Yiddish roots add this spin: one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge. And in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell calls mavens those who are intense gatherers of information and impressions and adds that mavens work well with connectors (those who have a wide network of casual acquaintances by whom they are trusted).  Now we have more to work with.

What right do I have to call myself a maven? Maybe none. Maybe Maven-in-training would be more accurate. Maven-in training Haven doesn’t have the same ring to it, though. Then again, between us, Vicky and I have nearly fourscore years of living as accumulated experience, we both seek to understand, and truth be told, fit the weird quality of the definition, too. (Who isn’t weird?  The older I get, the more I relish being me the way I am and don’t worry if other people think it’s strange.  I always liked Louisa’s plea in The Fantasticks: please God, don’t let me be ordinary.) But I digress.

Back to the definition: where better than the web to find connectors and connections? True, trust (and true trust) must be earned, and that leads us full circle back to the purpose of the blog. The blog is not a place to show off knowledge, but a chance to work with words each day, a place (a HAVEN, a refuge) to explore ideas and thoughts, and to offer them up in that effort of faith that says, here I am and here’s a notion and what do you think?

Rilke says, “We must learn to love the questions themselves.” It strikes me that the thing I am expert in is asking questions, and that we are all mavens of the unknown.



Where I’m From

Writing is a craft. Just like any other endeavor in life, theoretically the more you practice and work at something, the better you become. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron offers this wisdom: ““Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite — getting something down.” Sometimes it is difficult to put away those nagging thoughts that tell us we need to be more creative, more innovative, think of something more brilliant, despite feeling like we have nothing about which to write… Sometimes, it is just so difficult to put pen to paper and get it out! But in the spirit of Cameron’s outlook on art, the just “getting something down”– we are reminded of the importance of daily writing as a way to honor the muse. We started by simply thinking about telling our stories, and looked to George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From poem as a template to get the creative juices flowing.

Where I’m From, by Vicky

I am from jars of peanut butter, from pints of ice cream, and empty Slim-Fast cans.

I am from salt water—ocean spray and sea foam and ancient infinity.

I am from the white birch, the ficus tree, from rose gardens and bramble bushes.

I’m from the woods, and jumping over roots that try to unfurl gnarled, arthritic fingers.

I’m from “early to bed, early to rise” and working harder than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

I’m from glittering Christmas lights, a world lit up after dark, and the family songbook

from percussion instruments and Persian poetry.

I’m from airport terminals and wanderlust.

I’m from spiral-bound notebooks, from graphite and black ink.

I am from burnt incense, Nag champa, and Egyptian musk.

I’m from sacred circles and love is always

from Virginia Marie and Shefki Mati.

I’m from the double-headed eagle, from witches, and the wolf clan.

I am from the matriarch, from the three V’s

from bed-warmers, from bear hugs, from belly laughs that squeeze out tears.

Inculcated from observation, seared into memory, imprinted on my heart:

I am from home is where your mom is, and I’ll always be here for you.







Where I’m From, by Nin

I am from the circle

I am from Ginny eggs and Johnny’s scrapple

From the morning smell of coffee to wake up to and from the fragrant afternoon tea with cinnamon toast always waiting for us after school

I am from  bayberries and seaspray, from  the changing moods of the Peconic and the varying landscape of the beach and from the safety of the thick walls of  home, our stronghold, home where the food is and home that is family, home that is where, when you gotta go, they gotta take you in

I am from books: books everyplace, stacks and piles of them, books lining the stairs and filling the storerooms

I am from daffodils along the path to the beach, from violet patches like fairy rings, from the apple orchard with our favorite climbing tree, from a childhood out of an English novel, paradise and pathos in equal amounts

I am from family gatherings: Christmas Eve tree trimmings, Fourth of July picnics and home weddings

I am from loud overlapping conversations, from serious talk and light banter, from hearty laughter, from someone always strumming the guitar, from lots of singing (not always in key) I am from Mom, Dad, Steve, John, Dave, Nin and Bet all there for dinner at six and from late evenings hanging out in the kitchen around the table, the kitchen the heart of the home, the Bayberry kitchen with doors everywhere…..portals that more often let others in than let us out

I am from wanting to get out, from wanting to be a writer and having nothing to write, from gathering experiences, and then seeing and hearing too much, from escaping the Hotel California, from working my way back home, and from looking for an anchor

I am from going back to school, from being a single mom, from sweet baby eyes looking up at me with trust and me growing into strength in order to provide. I am from just me and my girl, growing together on the journey

I am from the little house and the tiny cottage and from running the dogs on the beach, from library research on Sundays and from walking in the woods, from quick jaunts to the city, from not enough time for reading and from dreaming of farms

I am from leap and the net will appear and from change as the only constant

I am from finding romantic love later in life, true love that offers comfort by day and a song in the night and that is even more treasured because of the bittersweet poignancy of its timing

I am from thinking about fine lines and polar opposites and how they are the same; I am from delighting in paradox; from chaos and order/make it messy and make it clear.

I am from the circle and in the circle.